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B-A Rails to Trails grand opening slated for tomorrow

The Bellwood-Antis Rails to Trails, Bell’s Gap Trail, will officially open tomorrow, July 8, with a grand opening ceremony beginning at 5 p.m. at the Roots Crossing trailhead.
Refreshments will be served and attendees are asked to bring a lawn chair along.
Although this is the official opening, area residents have already been using the trail.
According to Hazel Bilka, who played a large role in bringing the trail to this area, a lot of people are using the trail during the early morning and evening hours.
The trail begins at the crossover bridge in Bellwood and goes through the community park to Igou Road where the Roots Crossing trailhead begins. The trail then continues through a wooded area along PA-865 for 2.25 miles. Improvements made to the trail by Cottle Asphalt Maintenance Inc. out of Everett allow for easy walking, running and biking up the slight incline. With ample room along either side of the trail, horseback riding will eventually be added to the list of activities permitted on the trail.
Upon reaching the end of the newly improved portion of Bells Gap trail, the path continues on to a game land trail. While the game land trail is unimproved, there is a definite path to follow. The game land trail continues on for another 4.14 miles.
The return trip brings participants back down onto PA-865, looping back around to the crossover bridge.
Signs have been placed along the trail to alert users in which direction to go. There are also signs reminding motorists to share the road in specific areas where the trail follows public streets.
The entire trail, from the crossover bridge to Lloydsville, where the game land trail ends, is just shy of 8.5 miles.
In the future, a state proposed plan hopes to see the trail continue on after Lloydsville, connecting with other rail trails, which are yet to be completed. It also calls for improvements to be made to the game land trail.
Other individuals and groups have already offered their support for the newly completed trail. Thrivant Financial for Lutherans have already helped to landscape the parking lot, adding a few trees and flower beds. Two Eagle Scout projects are also in the works. One will include adding a pavilion and picnic area just outside of the parking lot. The other project calls to add three covered seating areas along the trail.
“This is really a four season trail,” said Bilka, “the scenery and the views are great.”
Ground was broken in the beginning of April for the construction of the Bells Gap Railroad Trail after the contract was awarded to Cottle’s Asphalt Maintenance, Inc. of Everett, in March. The completion date was originally set for July 25 but due to good weather conditions, work was completed early.
While it seems like things moved along quickly for the rail trail project, Bilka said plans actually started 15 years ago in 1992.
Thanks to the dedication of those involved and the Bellwood-Antis Community Trust, the rail trail is now a reality.
Converting abandoned railroad beds, streetcar beds and canal towpaths into trails for public recreation, health and enjoyment has become an on-going nationwide movement for the past twenty years or more.
The Bells Gap Railroad was introduced as a narrow gauge spur line in the 1850s with the intention of connecting the Pennsylvania Railroad Mainline to the people and resources in the northern portions of Pennsylvania. After converting to a standard gauge line in 1872, cars were easily exchanged, along with the goods they carried.
Today the trail can be enjoyed by many. It provides an excellent opportunity for various activities including: cycling, hiking, running, horseback riding, bird watching, nature studies, cross country skiing, photography and health and fitness. Not to mention, it is an area of historical interest and local heritage preservation. It provides an area for relaxation and enjoyment of nature. It is also the hope that the trail will draw interest from outside the area, bringing in tourists to use the facility.
The grand opening ceremony will be held tomorrow at 5 p.m. at the Roots Crossing trailhead. From I-99, take the Bellwood exit. Follow PA-865 N. for 2.7 miles to Igou Road. Bear right on Igou Road and continue 0.1 miles and turn left into the trailhead parking lot.